Alicia Borras, Top Model at 70

From runway model to Miss Spain, now in her 70’s, she’s back to being a model. And it’s not just because she poses professionally with clothes, but because her vivacious attitude is a reference.

Why did you to return to the runways and the sets?
The word “vindication” compelled me to return to the runways. As long as my body and mind are still working well, why should I stop doing things that I feel I’m still able to do? That’s why I accepted to walk down the runway in Madrid’s Fashion Week, to demonstrate that a 69-year-old could do it just as well as an 18-year-old. I never thought that I’d return to the runway or enter a photography studio again, but in life you can’t ever say “Never!” because who knows where destiny will take you.

What does your family say about going back to fashion?
My husband has always been, and continues to be, the person who has supported me in everything. It was he who pushed me to do it by saying that he’d see it as a recognition of my entire career.

I’ve read somewhere that you were married to a high-level executive and in others to a singer with blue blood…
When I got married and left everything behind, even in my own country, there was a lot of speculation… that I had married an Italian because we moved to Italy… that he was a German aristocrat because my husband is German… or that he was an opera singer. None of any of that was true. My husband at that time was a high-level executive of a multinational company, and that was why we moved to another country.

You left your modeling career when you were 27, do you miss it?
I’ve never missed anything from my past. In life, you have to go about burning stages, and each stage is different and interesting and it always holds new horizons and challenges.

Today being a model is the dream of any girl. How was modeling seen in Spain during the 60’s?
In my time, the so-called “Spanish society” watched us with interest and curiosity because we were part of an elite group they couldn’t exactly put their fingers on. We were well-known, famous and we participated in many of the events of the year without becoming part of that so-called “Spanish society”, because the truth of the matter is that we were workers.

What are your fondest memories of that first stage as a model?
I have many memories and some very interesting ones. I was with Pertegaz at the World’s Fair of New York in 1963. In 1965 I was walking down the runway with Carmen Mir at the Spanish Embassy in San Diego. In 1966 with Pedro Rodríguez in the Philippines, Hong Kong, etc… Perhaps now all those trips don’t seem too important, but I’m talking about something that happened more than 50 years ago, when Spain was not as it is now, and just think about Asia at that time; it was fantastic and real. It’s all changed a lot today.

And what are the best experiences of this new stage?
I have experienced a lot, because I am doing the same thing that I did 45 years ago. Except for the staff, make-up artists, hairdressers and stylists…, everyone could be my grandchildren. But that fact doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t think they are too bothered either. Perhaps the experience that most impressed me was the fashion show at Fashion Week in Madrid. The huge setup that was behind every show was incredible: the music, screens, lighting, spotlights… That is definitely one thing that has changed a lot, before there was none of any of that when we were walking down the catwalk.

How did your career start?
My father was a tailor and his workshop was in the house where we lived, so I grew up among fabrics and needles. One day, in Menorca, in 1962, there was this fashion show in which all the tailors and seamstresses of the island participated, and my father made two dresses for me to show. And when I walked down that runway, I liked it, so from that moment on, my dream was to be a runway model. Later on, my father saw an ad in La Vanguardia (at that time it came to the islands two or three days later) saying that Pertegaz was looking for runway models to work in his atelier. I sent two photographs of mine and shortly after, I received an answer with the day and time that I had to be in Barcelona. And that’s how it all began. It was the year 1963, so my father accompanied me to Barcelona. It was the source of everything.

What can you tell us about Pertegaz?
He created the clothing on each model, depending on what he had in mind, calling one or another in order to develop his idea. Sometimes we were standing there for hours until he achieved what he wanted. He could be charming and he sometimes imitated how we walked down the runway. But it was better to hide the day that things didn’t go well because he had a lot of character and was very demanding of himself and of others. He was a great creator, his life was his work, his resolve to outdo every garment that he created and never, or almost never, did he give up without getting it. For me, Pertegaz was the best school that I ever had in the world of fashion.

You also modeled in advertising and prêt-à-porter.
The times were changing and most of the runway models, including myself, left the fixed work in the houses of Haute Couture to work freely because of the really low wages. For example, doing a publicity spot would be paid similarly to working a whole month in any fashion house.

What facet of modeling did you like the most?
I’ve always said that the runways were my thing. In my time it meant to “flaunt the clothes”. That is to say, show it off, move it. If you wear a jacket, take it off. If it has pockets, put your hands in them. Now everything is different, more static. It sometimes seems like a military parade, without gestures nor turns. I don’t know! It’s different, that’s my sincere opinion. Now, with all the technology that we have, I also like to pose for fashion photos. In my time, photo sessions were done without make-up artists, without hairdressers, without stylists, without assistants… The truth is that each one of us had to bring out the best of herself. Now, from what I’ve seen, there is more professionalism, more organization, they know and are clear on what they want to do and how it has to look. Perhaps it’s more difficult now for models to be famous than in my time, because there are many more girls who want to devote themselves to this and the way isn’t easy, is long and very hard and only a very few are able to do it.

You were Miss Spain in 1965. Now the bodies of models and beauty pageant contestants are very different. What were they like then?
When I went out for Miss Barcelona and then for Miss Spain, I was already one of Pertegaz’s runway models, and even though we were thin, it wasn’t the same gauntness as now. I think that in my time, a 34 for adults weren’t even manufactured, not even a 36 if I remember correctly. You have to keep in mind that the human being has changed a lot in the past 50 years. For example, I walked down the runway for 10 years with shoes that were too small because the largest size that was made for women was a 38.

And what about the fashion world, how much has it changed?
Quite a bit. When Prêt-à-porter started, there were two collections a year, the same as any other clothing label. For a few years now, we have the so-called “Resort” season and there are more and more off-season collections. As far as trends are concerned, I don’t understand what tendencies they’re talking about, because if you buy a fashion magazine, you find a page of clothing in stripes, another one with flowers, another in yellows, another with short clothes, another with wide skirts, another with narrow skirts. What trends are they talking about? They create confusion for the people who buy clothing. The range of options is enormous. Stripes? Flowers? Both together? The quality of the fabrics and the tailoring has also greatly changed. In Milan, where I lived 9 years from 1973 to 1982, it was unthinkable for anyone there to buy clothing made with synthetic fabric, everything was made with fine fabrics. In Spain very good textile was used at that time, as well. All that has changed. The clothing industry has deteriorated and its fabrics along with it. They were different times. Perhaps now the public doesn’t look for quality as much as comfort and the chance to buy cheaper and more often.

Are there any designers or brands that are bringing something new to fashion?
I have several designers who I love, but the most fantastic things that are made I could only wear a few times since we have a more relaxed life. It’s a pity, people are no longer dressing like before. Designers mostly try to contribute something new. However, then you go into the shops and you realize that it’s always more or less the same. For example, sweaters in any color you want, but for the last 3 seasons it’s all oversized… because that way you can wear them no matter if you’re a 36 or a 40. It all goes back to easy manufacturing. Fashion from the 60’s-70’s, straight lines, without sleeves, no pleats, no pockets, no linings… Oversized blouses, straight and with some type of detail. Where are the fashion designers who want to create something that everyone else doesn’t already make?

What’s your impression of Spain now that you’ve returned to Barcelona? Do you think that Spain and Catalonia will form 2 different nations?
Living in different countries and cultures help your mind open horizons. I always say that I have the University of Life thanks to what I have lived, done, seen and known. Life has been very generous to me since the perspective that I have today would surely be different if I hadn’t done so many things. When my husband retired, we decided to return to Barcelona. It was logical. The climate, the fact that we met in this city and because both of us continue to maintain the friendships that we left behind. But I have to say that for some years now we are realizing that perhaps the decision to return to Barcelona was not the most ideal. It’s still a very beautiful and interesting city, but it has changed a lot. When I left, it was a city with momentum, it was growing, there were dreams, almost all the events were held here. Loewe held its fashion shows in the center of the Paseo de Gracia, you had the fashionable halls at the Ritz, the runways in the Gaudí Room and a long etcetera. All that has disappeared. But the worst thing is that this whole Catalan independence thing has been going on for three years now. If you live here, you realize that you are living in a kind of camouflaged dictatorship, because you’re either one of them or you’re the enemy. In Girona, there are newspapers that you ask for but they don’t have: ABC, El Mundo and others. I have a group of friends for more than 50 years, and because of our differences with regard to secession, we no longer speak. I am half-Catalan and I speak Catalan, but if they try to make me speak Catalan, I change to Spanish. I don’t let anybody make me do anything. Many people think like me, but they just don’t admit it. Why? Because they feel coerced. If Catalonia were to become independent, we would leave, but I think that it won’t happen.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career as a model?
It’s essential to be aware that you have the basic characteristics to carry out this career, and you also need to be bright. It isn’t enough to have a nice body, it’s also necessary to be expressive, your face has to say something, you have to be photogenic, you have to know how to pose, and even then, you still might not make it.

above: Oscar de la Renta Dress + Marquise Earrings
Photographer: José Morraja
Stylist: Javier de Juanas
Muah: Lolita with Graftobian + Schwarzkopf
Alicia Borrás Hairdress: Paco Rodríguez x Schwarzkopf
Photographer Assistant: Alejandro Rod
Postproduction: La Retocadora
Stylism Assistant: Carmen Bena
Model: Alicia Borrás @ Uno Models

Alicia Borras, Top Model at 70——————————–
Above: Versace Total Look + Marquise Jewelry

Alicia Borras, Top Model at 70——————————–
Above: Burberry Prorsum Dress + Christian Dior Jacket & Sneakers + Marquise Jewelry

Alicia Borras, Top Model at 70—————————–
Above: Gucci Complete Look both